MAKE IT: Pasta noodles

Pasta14 Pasta is fun to make and, if you have a pasta rolling machine, easy.  If you don’t then you’d better make sure your an expert with a rolling pin and have a good dose of patience. Here are the ingredients for a very simple egg pasta.  I’ve use it to make noodles here but it’s the same recipe if you want to make lasagne, spaghetti, tagiatelle or any of the hand-shaped pastas (if you have the inclination and time). 300g pasta flour (ideally pasta flour but plain flour will do if you don’t have any to hand) 3 eggs 3 tablespoons olive oil pinch of salt. I was making enough only for the two of us so the quantities in my pictures have been pared down to two thirds. Pasta01 Whack this into your mixer or thrash by hand until it clumps together and then form it into a ball.  It sometimes takes a while to come together and if it really doesn’t want to stick, you can try adding a splash more oil.  Once you’ve achieved a ball, let it sit for 20-30 mins. ??????????????????????????????? Pasta03 Then divi it up into four sections and roll out fairly thinly. Pasta04???????????????????????????????(I know the dough looks unfeasibly yellow in the photos but that’s because these are my own eggs – well my hens’ eggs – and the yolks are really bright compared to shop bought ones.  That’s because they get to eat a lot of grass while they free-range.)  Anyway, pop it through the pasta machine at its thickest setting a few times until it comes through smooth with no air pockets or crimply bits.  You might need to fold it a few times while you do this which I generally do in thirds.  ??????????????????????????????? When it’s smooth, you can trim it with a knife to give nice neat edges and pass it through the pasta machine again, this time on progressively smaller settings until it’s the thickness you need for the type of pasta you’re making.  In this case, from setting 0 (the widest) through 1, 2, 3 and finally 4. I normally pop it through twice on each setting before swapping to the next.  I don’t know if that’s really necessary but it’s certainly therapeutic. ???????????????????????????????   Pasta08 Finally, swap the roller for the noodle/spaghetti cutter (or if you’re doing it by hand, take a deep breath, flour the sheets really well, roll them up, pray they don’t stick and then attempt to cut into strips). You’ll need to hang  the noodles up to dry a bit before you cook them or they’ll stick together in the pan.  I have pasta stand now but I used to use a wire coat hanger.  Works just the same. Pasta10 Pasta12 If you’re going to cook them the same day it will only take two to three minutes in a large pan of fast boiling salted water.  If you plan to dry them to use later in the week, you can either transfer them to a long thin pasta jar once fully dried or tangle them into baskets.  I keep the inevitable little broken or short bits in a jar for popping into soups.   Dried pasta will take 8-10 mins to cook depending whether you like if al-dente or soft.Pasta11 I would say, however, if you do want to dry them, you’ll find it better to use proper pasta flour as the pasta dries harder and won’t snap as easily. I used these noodles with a few prawns, some mustard and sesame seeds, onions, ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander for a very simple supper dish for the two of us. Pasta15

MAKE IT: Pancakes


It’s Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras.
It’s pancake time.  Woo hoo!

4oz plain flour
1 egg
1/4 pint milk
pinch of salt


Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and break the egg into the middle.  Using a balloon whisk, mix the egg and as you do so, you’ll see the flour start to incorporate.  Take your time. Add a tiny bit of milk and mix again.  Repeat this until you have used all the milk and the batter is smooth.  (Alternatively, throw everything in together and mix with one of those hand blenders.  Easier but somehow not quite as therapeutic.)

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You should leave the batter to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the gluten do its thing, then stir again and you’re ready to go.

There is nothing difficult about making pancakes – there’s only a problematic pan to deal with.  You can use non-stick (if you must) but I find it just too non-stick – yes, you read that right, too non-stick.  The mixture slides over the pan too quickly and doesn’t set properly.

I like to use a stainless steel, heavy bottomed frying pan.  I know you’re probably freaking out about that but honestly, they don’t stick!  The trick is to prep your pan before you start frying your batter.  It’s really easy and only takes a minute to do.

Heat your pan and add a teaspoon of salt to it.  Remove from the heat and scrub the surface with the salt using a bit of folded kitchen paper.  (Try not to burn your fingers, obviously).  Then, tip the salt away, wipe the pan out with a clean piece of kitchen paper and put back on the heat.

You want the pan to be medium hot.  Not so hot that it’s smoking but hot enough that when you drop a little oil, say half a teaspoon, into it, it goes instantly super-runny and rolls around the pan easily.  It looks hot like it would really hurt if you dropped some of that oil on your hand.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure the whole surface is covered with a thin coating of oil, check again that it’s hot.  Test it with a tiny drop of batter and if it instantly hisses and sets, the pan is ready.  If you don’t have it hot enough or any surface of the pan hasn’t had the oil over it, it will stick.   Be brave and pour a small ladle of your batter mix in and tip the pan until it covers the bottom surface.  Try to avoid tipping it up the sides of the pan.


Put it on the heat and leave it alone until all the wet batter has set.  It should start to shrink slightly from the sides.  Help it along a bit with a spatula to judge whether it will lift easily from the bottom of the pan.  Loosen it gently on all sides, check the bottom for colour then lift out and gently turn it over.

Flipping is fun. Try it at your peril!


Once the other side it done, set aside in a warm casserole dish and make up the others or eat it there and then at the kitchen worktop with lemon and sugar or butter and maple syrup – whatever’s your fancy.  Our family tradition is dark brown sugar.

Flip ’em. roll ’em or fold ’em.  Doesn’t matter.  Just have fun with ’em!

NB.  From the second pancake onwards you won’t need much oil at all, just run a folded bit of kitchen paper soaked in oil around the pan and off you go again.



NEED IT, MAKE IT: Needle Case



This seems like a bit of an obvious requirement for someone who likes a bit of sewing and yet it’s something I simply haven’t got round to making.  I think the last time I made one was in Home Economics at school some….ooh, too many years to count….ago.

I finally became fed up of scratching around in those plastic casings that needles come in (or worse, losing them in the pin cushion and never to be seen again but often ‘felt’.  Ouch!)

So I finally got round to it and here’s my little needle case.

It’s very simple.  Just a piece of scrap fabric or two, a few bits of quilting wadding, a couple of bits of cardboard and a recycled ribbon of unknown origin.


I found the centre point of he fabric and marked out where the spine and needle pad need to be positioned.


Highly technical stuff this!

I then cut out the large oblong where the needle pad needed to poke through leaving probably quarter of an inch allowance and cutting diagonally into the corners so I could fold it back on itself as a kind of hem.  I then sewed round the outside of the case, leaving a gap sufficiently big to turn it inside-out and to get the wadding in.

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I pushed some wadding into one side and then packed a couple of bit of wadding on top of the cardboard backing for the needle pad and slotted it in the gap I’d made for it and tucked the raw edges of the hole underneath. In truth, it could probably have done with a little more so I could have used it as a pin cushion too but hey ho.  I did the same for the spine. and tacked everything in place so it wouldn’t move when I stitched it up.

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????I used the zipper foot to try to get nice and close to the edges.


Then I decided to do a quick bit of free-motion quilting swirls on the  other side for a bit of interest.


If you haven’t tried that yet, give it a go – it’s great fun.

Then it was just a case of sewing up the gap…


and sewing on a piece of ribbon (rather coarsely) to tie it together.


Any that was it – done.  Now everything’s neat and tidy which inspired me to sort out my notions box too.

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